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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Soccer Officials Accused of Taking Bribes, Kickbacks; Massive Theft Traced To Russia; Terror Bulletin on ISIS Social Media Reach; Massive Flooding In Texas. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 27, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: More rain falling in Texas, as officials worry they could find even more bodies tangled in this storm.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead: Texas cities drowning in water, more killed, at least 18 people found lifeless. And where are the 13 still missing in the chaos?
The sports lead, an ugly side to the beautiful game. They rake in billions selling their sport to the world, but now a massive globe- spanning sting exposing the ugly underbelly of international soccer. Officials who allegedly lived like czars and operated like loan sharks and are accused of extorting entire countries get swooped up by police. But why did law enforcement let soccer's kingpin go free?
And the money lead. He made his cover models wear pasties, but only on the front of the magazines. Now Hugh Hefner making a naked play to win back subscribers by having his playmates put on their clothes, trying to convince readers to actually read "Playboy" for the articles.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Some breaking news just in to CNN. A military lab makes a massive mistake that could have very easily turned into a lethal blunder. An Army facility shipped a live sample of anthrax, yes, anthrax, the fatal substance that killed five people in a terrorist attack in 2001.
Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. This is one of the deadliest pathogens in existence, something that sits atop the list of concerns when it comes to bioterrorism, and it was just sent out for delivery like anything else? How did this happen?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: And that is the question, Jake, at this hour, that the Centers for Disease Control and the Pentagon are trying to answer.
Here's what happened, apparently, last Friday. Some anthrax was shipped. It was supposed to essentially be dead spores. They are shipped under less stringent circumstances for research programs than when the Pentagon ships live spores. This time, the lab receiving it reported it wasn't dead, it was live. And it was shipped in these circumstances. It wasn't supposed to be. It was supposed to be dead agent.
In all of this, agent was shipped from Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to private labs, commercial labs in eight states. Let me just read them off to you, Wisconsin, Delaware, New York, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, California, and Virginia.
Now the CDC is collecting up all the samples that the military shipped, looking at all of them to make sure it wasn't just this one lab, that there are no other live samples out there that they don't know about. At this hour, the Pentagon not able to tell us if anyone is even undergoing protective medical treatment for exposure to anthrax.
All they're saying at this hour is, they're collecting up the samples and right now they do not believe there is a threat to public safety. They believe they have a handle on it. But this isn't the first time this kind of shipment has happened, so a lot of questions to answer -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with that breaking news, thank you so much.
Let's turn now to our national lead now, the destructive thunderstorms in the Southeastern United States which threaten to make an already lethal situation even worse. The storms today dumped rain, causing flooding, runoff and death. Today, road crews attempting to clear debris found a man's body. The sad discovery brings the number of people who have died in Houston alone to six.
The death toll is more than 30 for the entire region; 13 others remain missing, including 73-year-old Alice Tovar. Her family says she never made it to work. Her car was found in a ditch. Families have been wading through waist-high water to make it to safety. You see one man there with a small child in his arms. Drone video gives us a different perspective on the high water in Houston, much of it unable to absorb into the oversaturated ground.
Let's go to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's at the Blanco River in Wimberley, Texas.
Jennifer, now we hear more that rain might be coming, and that's for at least five days?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, now through the weekend at least. We're looking at more rain. The amounts vary, where I am, maybe an inch or less. But areas to the north, like Dallas and on into Oklahoma, they could see a couple of inches.
That's the last thing that this area needs because the river behind me, the Blanco River, just as many rivers across this region are filled to capacity, to the brim, they have gone down considerably. But we're still seeing water flowing over bridges is what you're seeing there behind that tree. And you can see the flow of water, incredible. This area where I'm standing, 7A Resort, it's very tragic. You can
see all the debris around. But the people here the night of the flood, they knew what to do and they were ready.
GRAY (voice-over): The cabins at 7A Resort along the Blanco River were filled to capacity, the swimming pool prepped and ready for the Memorial Day weekend, until a wall of water and mud rushed in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started going into the swimming pool. It's just weird because it's just a brown -- sort of like the blob that moves. And then you can just see it moving all the way over. And then it came more and more. And then you heard it take the deck and all of the stuff out and you hear the cracks and the roars. There were trees, trees down there. And they're -- of course, they're gone.
GRAY: Joanne Czichos White, whose father started the camp in 1946, said she's seen the pool flood before. But this time was different.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This water is just coming up so fast.
GRAY: The entire campground, some 400 people forced to flee to higher ground in the dark just before water demolished these cabins.
JOANNE CZICHOS WHITE, 7A RESORT: All we could do was hear because it was the middle of the night. You could hear big trees cracking and glass breaking and moving. So we really didn't know until light how bad it was.
GRAY: Joanne's sister-in-law, Trish Czichos, said it's the worst flooding the resort has ever seen in its 68 years of existence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It was unbelievable.
GRAY: As waters begin to recede in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, hundreds of families like the Czichos are facing similar clean-up this week from massive destruction caused by severe weather. But the structural damage pales in comparison to the lives lost and still missing, like this mother and her two children who were inside their vacation home, also along the river, as it was uprooted and pushed downstream. Laura McComb called her sister as the house drifted away.
JULIE SHIELDS, SISTER OF LAURA MCCOMB: A little after 1:00 in the morning, she called me and said: "I just want you to know the ceiling has caved in and the boat -- the house is floating down the water. And tell mom and dad that I love them, I love you, and pray."
GRAY: With more rain expected in the days ahead, flash flooding is still a threat.
KRISTI WYATT, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SAN MARCOS: The clouds have come in. It's dark outside. And we're taking a look at it and kind of starting to plan to make sure that we're ready in case we get more bad weather coming in this way.
GRAY: For 7A Resort and its rich history, there are so many reasons to rebuild.
white: It really means the people that come year after year. We're in fourth generation with some families.
GRAY: But Trish Czichos says right now that decision is still uncertain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just don't know what the future holds. It's kind of an hour-by-hour, day-by-day decision -making.
GRAY: And, today, it's that day-by-day process. They are cleaning. The family is here. Friends are here. You can see everything inside the cabins are now being brought out and they are deciding what to do over the next couple of days, weeks and months.
Jake, they are just trying to get as much cleaned up before more possible rain later this week and the weekend.
TAPPER: Jennifer Gray, thank you so much.
Let's go to the Dallas region now, specifically to Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price joins me now on the phone.
Mayor Price, thanks for joining us. You met with emergency officials in the region today. What is the biggest concern right now?
BETSY PRICE, MAYOR OF FORT WORTH, TEXAS: The biggest concern in our region, of course, is the additional runoff and additional rain. In Fort Worth alone, Lake Worth and Eagle Mountain Lake, which are our two major lakes, are at -- are topped.
And Lake Worth is over the spillway. Parker County is already beginning to evacuate, which is our county just to the west. Areas there, they have until 8:00 to evacuate, roughly 250 families or more. And it just continues to be rising water and the additional rain that's coming, because the forecast is for rain for the next five days.
TAPPER: That's what's really scary. Now, tell me about the Padera dam that's near. That's another concern.
Engineers have said that the dam is holding for now, even though it's topped with water. What is the seriousness of the concern that that might change when it rains tonight,as it is expected to? And is anything being done to hold the structure?
PRICE: They're working on it. They have been evaluating it all day. I'm not there.
But the report this morning was that they felt that it would hold and that they could contain it. Of course, there's people downstream from that dam we have been worried about, not massive areas, because a lot of it is agriculture. But there are families that they have evacuated. And then the major runoff from that lake would go down -- on down towards the Houston area, which was very hard hit.
TAPPER: Yes. Well, we were told 25 homes downstream from the lake -- downstream from the lake and they have been evacuated.
PRICE: That's correct. That's what we were told also, 25 to 26 families.
TAPPER: Now, we're told there are approximately 13 people still missing. What help do first-responders need to find these people?
PRICE: Well, I think they need for families to call in if they have someone missing and to report -- this is what I was told -- to report where they were last seen, also to contact the Red Cross locally. Our local DFW chapter is coordinating most of the outreach for the North Texas region.
They're handling 100 Texas counties. And there's 8,000 homes already impacted by that that will be devastated and cause relocations.
So, we're asking people to contact Red Cross. At this time, they don't need additional supplies. What they need is monetary donations or for people to come in and get trained by their local Red Cross to help in these disasters.
TAPPER: And, Madam Mayor, as you noted, rain is expected for the next five days. How is the region preparing for further rainfall, further storms?
PRICE: I think Red Cross is coordinating for relocation and rescue if needed.
Our emergency operations center, along with Dallas County's emergency operations, Parker, and all of them are coordinating our efforts. We have sent 12 firefighters as part of a Texas task force that does emergency relief. And we're just taking in additional supplies and monitoring it very closely.
And if we feel there's any threat, we will issue evacuation orders for people if they should need -- if we feel like they should need it.
TAPPER: Mayor Betsy Price, thank you. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of your region and I'm sure the donations will be coming in as well.
PRICE: Tell them just to text Red Cross at 9099, text Red Cross to 9099 if they want to make an electronic donation.
TAPPER: Thank you, Madam Mayor. Appreciate it.
PRICE: Thank you. (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: The charges sound like they're straight out of a mob movie, money laundering, racketeering, wire fraud, except these charges are against some of the most powerful men in the sports world, now accused of taking $150 million in bribes, including one who pulled in $11 million alone, allegedly -- that story next.
[16:15:59] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The sports lead now: it is a monumental takedown of one of the most powerful organizations in the entire world, one that has walked into countries and forced them to change their own laws if they want to do business.
The allegations of corruption and strong-arming are so stunning they would prompt the guys who hang out in the back room or the bada bing to blanche. The U.S. government today charging 14 members of FIFA, soccer's governing body, with racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and taking bribes totaling $150 million -- not bad for a so-called non-profit that doesn't pay any taxes.
CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is here with the shocking details of this indictment.
And, what an incredible story.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And this was a massive U.S.-led operation, Jake. They handed out 14 indictments to officials tied to FIFA around the world. The U.S. is vowing that this is only the beginning to rid the non-profit organization and charge the most popular sport in the world of corruption.
BROWN (voice-over): It's the largest governing body for the world's most popular sport, soccer. And now, FIFA has enough people indicted for corruption to start its own team, one the Justice Department says is organized, widespread and criminal.
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer.
BROWN: Hours ago at this luxury hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, authorities arrested seven FIFA officials as they gathered for their annual meeting. In total, the Justice Department indicted 14 people.
LYNCH: All of these defendants abused the U.S. financial system and violated U.S. law. And we intend to hold them accountable.
BROWN: Among the charges, racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. RICHARD WEBER, DIRECTOR, IRS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION: This
really is the World Cup of fraud. And today, we are issuing FIFA a red card.
BROWN: Events like the World Cup help FIFA bring in more than $2 billion a year.
The international event draws top players, top tourism and top publicity for the host cities and sponsors.
Now, the Justice Department says FIFA officials have used that allure to earn a cool $150 million in bribes for more than two decades. In exchange, it allegedly provided lucrative media and marketing rights to the World Cup and other tournaments. CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: FIFA worldwide has extraordinary
power. This is uber power. We could make the case this is the biggest sports bust in history today. This is historic. This is monumental.
BROWN: So, who's among FIFA's least trustworthy team of executives.
Vice President Jeffrey Webb is directly accused of using his position to solicit kickbacks. According to the IRS, top committee member Charles Blazer has amassed $11 million in unreported income.
Accusations of corruption have long shadowed FIFA, including controversial decisions to hold future world cups in Russia and Qatar instead of the U.S.
BRENNAN: It was absolutely shock when Qatar beats the United States, except then we took a breath and everyone thought about the oil and the money and the fact that you could open up another part of the world. And everyone kind of shook their heads and said, well, of course.
BROWN: FIFA's provocative president Sepp Blatter avoided charges today and is up for reelection to the post on Friday. But U.S. officials made clear today this is just the beginning.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The work will continue until all of the corruption is uncovered and a message is sent around the world that this conduct will not be tolerated.
BROWN: And FIFA President Blatter said in a statement today that "such misconduct has no place in football and we will insure that those who engaged in it are put out of the game."
And, Jake, worth nothing here that back in December, FIFA announced its findings in its own investigation and it said it found no corruption.
TAPPER: Wow. So, you tell me, they investigated themselves and they didn't find anything?
BROWN: Yes, that's what I'm telling you.
[16:20:00] TAPPER: Wow. That's so strange.
Thank you, Pamela Brown.
More breaking news in our national lead today: New details emerging on yesterday's data theft from the IRS. The agency said a sophisticated organized crime syndicate used stolen personal information of more than 100,000 Americans off of tax forms. Now it seems as if the roots of the theft lead overseas.
CNN investigative correspondent Chris Frates is following the trail for us.
Chris, where are these bad guys allegedly?
CHRIS FRATES, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the IRS believes that the bad guys originated in Russia, that this breach originated in Russia. If you remember, about 100,000 taxpayers had their tax returns taken. And the IRS says that information taken from those tax forms was then used to fill out fraudulent tax returns. And there was about 50 million of those tax returns filed before the IRS caught on to this.
Now, they say that the criminal investigation unit is looking into this. The inspector general at treasury is also looking into this. The Department of Homeland Security has been alerted.
So, we're early on in the investigation here. But I think it's also important to remember that the IRS has been warned for years about its security. Going back to 1997, they were told that they need to have better cybersecurity.
So, this is something that has lawmakers on the Hill interested. They are asking for the IRS to come and brief members of the Senate Finance Committee on what happened, how could it happen and how do we prevent it from happening again.
TAPPER: So, it was about 100,000 Americans had their information taken by these cyber thieves. Do we have any idea about who specifically these 100,000 Americans are? Have they been notified? Is there some special form these people filled out that if you filled it out, you should be worried?
FRATES: Well, the IRS says they will contact all 100,000 people whose information has been breached. They'll get some credit monitoring services. And so, the IRS is trying to take care of those folks and we'll see, you know, how this progresses. If we get more information about who they are.
TAPPER: All right. Chris Frates, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, terrorists nearly pulled off a deadly plot in Texas. Now, the ISIS recruiter who inspired that attack is back online. And he is trying to seduce others to do the same. Is anything being done to stop him? Plus, you're cruising along at nearly 40,000 feet when both of your
airplane's engines stop. Now a mid-air scare has Airbus scrambling to assure more than 100 airlines their planes are safe.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. An urgent law enforcement warning in national news about a potential ISIS attack here in the United States.
The six-page joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security bulletin says U.S. officials are overwhelmed by the amount of support the terrorist group ISIS is receiving on social media and they warn military personnel to be on heightened alert.
Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, is this based on a specific credible threat stream?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, not specific, not credible, largely about timing, issued this weekend because ISIS and other terror groups often time their attacks to holidays and other significant dates to maximize their impact.
This weekend, of course, Memorial Day weekend. Still, a U.S. law enforcement official tells me that the current posture is, quote, "prudent and very concerned." And this intelligence bulletin is a sign of that level of concern.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The new FBI joint intelligence bulletin warns that U.S. military, law enforcement and government installations and personnel are at increased risk of attack by ISIS. The new warning first obtained by FOX News and issued before Memorial Day cautions that ISIS and other terror groups often time their attacks to significant or symbolic days to heighten impact.
The terror attack in Garland, Texas, earlier this month demonstrated the threat from ISIS supporters hiding within the United States and communicating directly with ISIS leaders abroad. After the shooting, the security level at every military base across the country increased to "Bravo", signifying an "increased and predictable threat of terrorism."
U.S. bases generally have not been at this level since the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. law enforcement is particularly concerned about ISIS' aggressive and successful online propaganda campaign. Thousands of people in the U.S. have shown interest in ISIS online. And U.S. officials fear that some of them could be inspired to carry out attacks here.
LYNCH: It really is an expansion of how the Internet has been used, frankly, for several years now both in recruitment and radicalization of young people to join terrorist groups.
SCIUTTO: Now, the men believed to have been in touch with one of the Texas shooters is back online encouraging new supporters after having previous Twitter accounts suspended. The British-born ISIS recruiter Junaid Hussein posted his contact information on Twitter for anyone who wants to, quote, "bake a cake", a well-known code phrase for building bombs.
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Group likes like ISIL or al Qaeda now are calling publicly for attacks in the west of people who they have never recruited, specifically, they have never trained. Someone could decide on their own to answer that call with little or no notice to our intelligence community.
SCIUTTO: One of the key challenges for U.S. law enforcement is the sheer volume of online communication and contact by known jihadists, suspected jihadists and others on social media. U.S. officials speak of thousands here in the U.S. who show interest, but that could be as simple as someone following someone on Twitter or Facebook.